By Chinasa Afigbo
When in a foreign land, one’s traditional music is one of the ways of keeping in touch with the culture and beliefs of your homeland. For that reason, the Fusion Sanskruti Arts Foundation, FSAS, an Indian arts foundation in Lagos, Nigeria conducted its first Indian classical music concert at the MUSON Centre recently. A musical group called Sakhi, which means ‘friends who are girls’ in India, was invited to perform.
The group was comprised of only women performing artists whose aims are to showcase and bequeath the Indian music and dance to the new generation.
The group is made up of one vocalist (Kaushiki Chakraborty) who is also the leader of the group; one kathak dancer (Bhakti Deshpande) and five instrumentalists: Mahima Upadhyay (the Pakhawaj player); Nandini Shankar (violinist); Savani Talwalkar (Tabla player); Depopriya Chatterjee (flautist); and Anupama Bhagwat (Sitarist).
A member of the group said “all the pieces of music are composed and arranged by the group, and this is made possible through sessions of rehearsals and creating music together within the group.” The women who hail from different cities in India happen to have met themselves severally at different festivals they performed as individuals, before kaushiki Chakraborty, the vocalist and group leader, took the responsibility to bring them all together to form Shaki.”
“We knew each other as individual musicians. So when this idea came I had to figure out who I wanted to for this,” Kaushiki said.
Kaushiki went on to underscore how the group has been able to stay together, not just as business partners, but as friends: “Musically, for a group like this, connecting is very important. Having a great friendship, understanding and honoring each other’s emotional level to connect are also very important.
However, the musical group didn’t fail to express what it felt like to perform for an audience that isn’t accustomed Indian music: “As Indian classical music performers, it gives us a very challenging and interesting opportunity to perform for an audience that isn’t used to Indian music. It is the greatest form of motivation to the performing artists because you don’t know how they would receive it and what to expect.”
The songs and dance performances showed diverse facets of Indian culture, traditions, and society at large.
The concert began with a song and dance accompanied by the musicians praising the Lord of all beginnings, Ganapati, followed by a prayer to Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge and arts.
The next piece of music and dance called Radha Rang depicted the popular festival of colors named Holi. It was followed by presentation of other vigorous songs, music, and dance called “Jai Jai Durge Ma” which showed the different facets of women, womanhood, their emotions, and their strengths. “The hands that rock the cradle rule the world” couldn’t have been better depicted than in the piece of work.
Then the instrumentalists came, showing mastery of their respective musical instruments; the flute, violin, sitar, tabla, and Pakhawaj, leaving the spectators mesmerized.
The concert concluded with a very interesting piece of music called “Lok Ranjini”, specially created for the Indian Diaspora living in Lagos who came from different states of the country with varied cultural and topographical backgrounds.
In all, the performances touched the hearts of the audience and left many with eyes full of tears as the traditional music of their faraway land re-enacted here in Lagos brought back fond memories.
The concert was the first of its kind in Nigeria with 7 eminent female artists performing together. On their own part, FSAS was thrilled at the grand success of their debut concert here in Lagos and hopes to invite more artists in the near future.